Often ranked among the funniest films of all time, Young Frankenstein is Mel Brooks’s finest film. With its haunting score and black-and-white cinematography, it brilliantly feigns solemnity while piling on absurdities both familiar and new. It indulges in Brooks’s penchant for sexual humor without wallowing in it and reminds everyone just how funny Gene Wilder could be. The script by Brooks and Wilder has a screwy charm, with lines like “Walk this way” being turned into opportunities for unforeseen silliness that reward multiple viewings. (That line even inspired the lyrics of Aerosmith’s single “Walk This Way.”)
All the actors are at the top of their comedic game. Wilder has a unique talent for acting maniacally crazed, while Marty Feldman’s bug eyes make him an ideal Eye-gor, shifting hump and all. The comedians are at their best when they themselves struggle to keep their composure, such as when Wilder and Feldman discuss the “abby normal” brain. Madeline Khan and Kenneth Mars reunite from What’s Up, Doc?, and Mars’s capacity for inscrutable accents continues to be hilarious. Cloris Leachman is especially memorable as the frigid Frau Blücher [horse neighs in fright]. Lastly, Peter Boyle as Frankenstein’s monster, perhaps the straightest role, combines lumbering pathos, a short temper, and some self-aware glances at the audience. Plus, one can’t forget Gene Hackman’s cameo as an espresso-making blind man.
The best parodies have a comedic voice of their own besides just pointing out their similarities with other films. On one level, Young Frankenstein works as an homage to Universal’s old Frankenstein movies, even employing the same mad-scientist equipment from the 1930s; on the other hand, it spoofs them with abandon, delivering endless original laughs with spinning bookcases, aimless dart games, and mute pleas for “sedagive.” Even now, forty years later, this is Mel Brooks at his best.
Best line (out of too many): (Igor, poking his head out the door as a test) “Blücher!” [horses whinny]Rank: 53 out of 60
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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